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Ballroom blitz

Fri., Jan. 27, 2012

Dancers’ newfound passion fuels founding of Snowflake Ball

Four years ago, Ken and Debby Dahlke planned to attend a fundraising event in Post Falls that involved ballroom dancing. The couple had never danced before. So they took some lessons.

That one small step for the Coeur d’Alene couple will mean thousands of big dance steps Sunday at the Snowflake Ball in Coeur d’Alene. Skate Plaza, a roller rink, will be transformed into a ballroom for the event.

“We’re hoping we have 300 people,” Ken Dahlke said. “We’re hoping the weather holds. The initial response has been good.”

If you’ve ever doubted that the efforts of just a few people can change the lives of hundreds, the Dahlkes’ dance story is instructive.

The couple loved their dance classes four years ago. “My wife even sent me to take private lessons, because I was so bad,” Dahlke said.

They discovered that they had no place to practice between lessons. So about two years ago, the Dahlkes approached the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene to see if the center would sponsor “open ballroom practice night.”

The center agreed and every Tuesday, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., men and women of all ages arrive and simply practice. No teaching, just practice. It costs $5 a person.

The Dahlkes – Ken is 60, Debby is 55 – create the music playlist each week, featuring everything from the slower waltzes to faster swing dances.

“It’s a venue you can be comfortable stopping in the middle and saying, ‘let’s work on this’ or ‘let’s ask so and so over here if this looks right.’ ”

Bayley Brooks, 14, of Hauser, Idaho, and Nicholas Kane, 16, of Newman Lake, showed up at open practice, became dance partners, and they now compete nationally. They qualified for the 2012 USA Dance National Championships in Baltimore in late March.

The open practice nights grew popular, and last summer the Dahlkes and others organized the Summer Vintage Ball in the Kroc Center’s gym. About 300 people of all ages attended.

“It was a fabulous cross-generational event,” Ken Dahlke said. “People came dressed in vintage attire.”

The Dahlkes are hoping for a good turnout Sunday in the Skate Plaza venue, and they are extending the invitation to singles and couples throughout the Inland Northwest. If you’ve never danced before, the evening starts with a lesson.

And even if you don’t feel like dancing, the music will be great, Ken Dahlke said.

“People generally don’t have the chance to listen to a full-size big band playing the old-fashioned, big-band music,” he said. “For $15, where else can you go to listen?”

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